What Are Cat Whiskers For?

One of the most distinctive features of a cat, other than their pointy ears and tail, is their whiskers. It’s very rare that you encounter a cat that does not have their own set of whiskers present on their face. In such a case it’s likely that their lack of whiskers is related to a medical problem they’re facing. 

A cat’s whiskers play a very important role in their lives, beyond just giving them a unique style.  There are actually a lot of interesting reasons why a cat has whiskers and the roles that they play on a cat’s face. 

Interesting Facts About Whiskers that You Probably Didn’t Know About

Cat whiskers are definitely a unique feature that not many other species can brag about having. This defining feature brings many interesting facts to the table about the purpose of cat’s whiskers that is probably news to many cat owners of the world.

Whiskers Aren’t Just on Your Cats Cheeks

Interestingly enough, a cat has whiskers in places beyond just the sides of their faces. There are also whiskers located just above their eyes, right where you’d expect to see eyebrows on a human face. Cat’s also have whiskers by their ears, around their jaw, and even on their legs. 

Whiskers play a role in protecting a cat in the areas that are most sensitive and at risk for danger: Their eyes/their face and the backs of their legs. Whiskers definitely aren’t just for show on a cat’s face. 

Whiskers Help with Navigation 

A cat’s whiskers are directly attached to their nervous system. Meaning, as the tips of their whiskers, brush against something their nervous system is receiving messages from the tiny organs on the tips of the whiskers called “proprioceptors.”

The purpose of a cat’s whiskers is very much for navigational purposes such as sensing direction, distance, and in some cases even the texture of an object. Now that you know that a cat’s whiskers are directly connected to their nervous system, you might think twice about pulling or cutting their whiskers. 

Whiskers Can Come in Different Lengths and Colors

Some cats have been found to have incredibly short whiskers naturally. Others have extremely long whiskers. One cat named Missi had a record-breaking set of whiskers, measuring in at 7.5 inches long. She even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for her insanely long whiskers. 

Cat whiskers can also come in different colors, not just the typical white color you might be used to seeing. Although, this color-changing effect typically only takes place as a cat age. Yes, their whiskers can begin to go gray as they age.

Whiskers Can Tell You a Cat’s Mood

A cat can’t easily hide their mood, as it can be seen plainly in their whiskers. A cat whose whiskers are hanging in a relaxed fashion is likely to be feeling calm and happy. Whereas, a cat who’s whiskers are more pulled back might be feeling some fear or nervousness. Finally, a cat whose whiskers is pointed forward might be experiencing some feelings of aggression or maybe even tapping into their hunting instincts.

Whiskers Do Not Need Upkeep by The Cat’s Owner

Cutting a cat’s whiskers should never happen. As previously mentioned, a cat’s whiskers are directly connected to their nervous system. Meaning, cutting their whiskers can cause them a considerable amount of pain and discomfort. Not to mention it will disorient them and probably cause some nervousness related to their sensory impairment caused by cutting their whiskers. However, a cat losing whiskers by normal means is nothing to worry about. They shed their whiskers naturally. 

The Length of Whisker’s is Directly Related to the Size of the Cat

The fact that a cat’s whisker length is directly related to their size should not come as a surprise. The bigger the cat, the more surface area that needs to be navigated through their environment as well as protected from it. 

A cat’s whisker length generally is directly related to the cat’s width more so than it’s overall size. The purpose of this is to help a cat navigate through tight spaces. Their whiskers are supposed to tell them whether they can fit into a tight space or not. 

A Cat’s Whiskers are an Important Hunting Tool

A cat is born with a natural instinct to hunt and prey in order to catch that day’s meal. Domesticated cats get out easy, having their owners do all of the dirty work for them and serve them up food on a plate. 

Just because a cat has been domesticated does not mean they have evolved away from the natural hunting features they are born with. The whiskers previously mentioned to be located on a cat’s legs are made for just that. 

The whiskers that are located on the back of a cat’s front legs are especially important for climbing and hunting. These particular whiskers help them to navigate their way up a tree as well as orient themselves once they’ve made contact with their targeted prey. 

Conclusion

Whiskers are one of the main physical features that make a cat identifiable as a feline. Their whiskers service a much greater purpose than just to make them look even more adorable. A cat’s whiskers serve the purpose of helping them navigate the world around them, show their mood to those around them, and even help protect their faces. If you remember nothing else about a cat’s whiskers, do remember that they should never be cut or pulled out.

Do whiskers grow back?

A cat’s whiskers do in fact grow back if they are accidentally plucked out. This happens sometimes, by accident. It may leave a cat feeling a little disoriented, but they will recover, and their whicker will grow back in due time.

How many whiskers does a white cat have?

On average a cat has a total of 12 whiskers. You’ll typically notice that they have 4 rows of whiskers on each side of their face.

Do cats shed whiskers?

Cats do shed their whiskers just as they do their fur coat. Often this is just a normal process, but other times this could be due to a problem that they are experiencing.

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Written by Leo Roux

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